Our Ecological Footprint
"The ecological footprint is the corresponding area of productive land and aquatic ecosystems required to produce the resources used, and to assimilate the wastes produced, by a defined population at a specified material standard of living, wherever on Earth that land may be located." – William E. Rees (Environmental Economist). It is an excellent tool that enables us to clearly see our own environmental impact. It is important in many ways. First, it is possible to measure and quantify one’s own ecological footprint. According to Bocking “it has brought home to thousands the true meaning of consumption”. Several things may come as a surprise, no matter how environmentally consciously we try to live.
Also, ecological footprints of people will vary dramatically from country to country. For example, according to Cunningham about 3/4 of the current consumption goes to the 1.1 billion people who live in affluence, while 1/4 of the consumption remain for the other 4.6 billion people”. Needless to say, we live within the affluent world and out high ecological footprint posses not only an environmental problem, but also an ethical one since there are such large discrepancies between people solely based on where they live. By switching to public transit and walking and bicycling more often my biological footprint drops down to 7.6 global hectares, which is much lower than the national average. Interestingly enough, in Cape Town, South Africa, living the same life as I do here brings my ecological footprint down to 6.5 hectares. This is still however higher than the 4.3 hectares average in that country. For individuals, some small lifestyle changes can go a long way. For example relying more on public transport instead of the private car can really impact our consumption of fossil fuels and also lower our production of air pollution. Eating less meat can also positively impact global environment. According to the Earth day website, (2002) “a plant-based diet generally requires less land, energy, and other resources, Crop-based food requires an average of 0.78 global hectares per ton of food, compared to 2.1 global hectares required to produce one ton of animal-based food”. Re-using and recycling products as well as buying products with less packing can reduce our garbage production as well as save trees and preserve nature and species. The ecological footprint of communities (cities, municipalities, countries) can also be calculated, and it too can be reduced. Also, it can facilitate in the lowering of an individuals’ footprint. For example, more reliance on public transport can be encouraged through building and sustaining good public transport. Zoning laws and mixed-use-development can maximize and optimize land use and public spaces can be created and maintained. Businesses can also be encouraged to be more environmentally responsible, but in many cases this needs to be done through laws and policies, as it is unlikely to be done voluntarily. The quiz and the advice presented on the Earth day website do not actually include how to Del with the philosophy of today’s society which is very materialistic as well as consumerist. The culture of consumerism is largely responsible for the large consumption in the world today, particularly in developed nations, which have a high ecological footprint. Furthermore, the advice presented is focused on what the individual can do and rather biased in that way. There is no mention of toxic waste for example for the production for which businesses and industries are largely responsible. When discussing what countries can do the website suggests voting for candidates that “support renewable energy policies, protecting existing ecologically productive lands, restoring degraded natural areas and setting standards for recycled product procurement policies and fair trade” (Earth day, 2002) again focusing the responsibility on the individual. On